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The Expansionist
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Six of One, 2,010 of the Other. As the 21st Century approached, I wondered how we would say the numbers of the years. I had heard that in the early years of the 20th Century, people said "nineteen five" for what we later said as "19-oh-5", but have never actually heard a recording nor seen a textual rendering of that formulation in print. Maybe it was "19-hundred 5", which would make more sense than simply dropping the 0.
In any case, it did not surprise me that the first 10 years of the 2000s were said "two-thousand x". But I wondered when "twenty" would replace "two-thousand". Are we there yet?
No, not fully. We are undergoing a transition that will eventually end up at "twenty", but some people are still saying "two thousand ten", while others insist, some militantly, on "twenty ten". But what about next year, "twentyleven"? Will we have to backtrack to "two thousand" for the year 11? "Twenty eleven" is awkward. "Twenty twelve" works, and every year thereafter. But what about now?
"Twenty-ten" fits with long-established usage related to measurement of vision: "twenty-twenty", "twenty-forty". "Two thousand" is only one syllable longer than "twenty", and is clearer. I say both, at different times, and suspect a lot of other people do too. I don't think I'll say "twenty eleven", tho. It's either "twentyleven" or "two thousand eleven" for me.
(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 4,373 — for Israel.)

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